On March 27, Salt Lake Community College’s 2012 Fulbright-Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Baohua Wang spoke about the difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine at the South City Campus.
Wang highlighted differences in body system conception, diagnostics, symptoms and treatments. While Western medicine treats every system independently, Chinese medicine treats the person as a whole.
“Every part of our body will have the close connection with every other part,” said Wang. “It [interconnectedness] is a very important thought.”
Western medicine sees the body like a machine. We can find the part that is broken and fix it.
“The most important thing in our therapies’ difference comes in thought,” said Wang.
Western medicine believes in repairing the problem. That means cutting the disease out, replacing the nonfunctional parts like knees and hips, maintaining a condition usually through medication like high blood pressure treatments and killing the disease with antibiotics. Doctors do all of the work.
In contrast, Chinese medicine looks to regulate the system. The doctor and the herbs help the body to regain its balance, and in doing so, the body becomes stronger. Patients do all of the work. The doctor is there to assist.
“In China, we do pay more attention on the relationship between the people,” said Wang.
Wang noted that the diagnostic process in Western medicine can be invasive. Doctors take blood, use x-rays and perform other tests. In Chinese medicine, diagnosing a disease requires that the doctor watch, touch, ask and listen.
Wang said that doctors trained in Western medicine will pay more attention to the results of the tests while the doctors trained in Chinese medicine techniques will pay more attention to their own observations through sight and the touch.
In Chinese medicine, doctors will look at the body of the tongue and its coat to make a diagnosis. Body size shape and moisture can give clues to the patient’s health as can the color and thickness of the coat.
“The tongue is very important to watch,” Wang said. “If it [the tongue] is quite fat, it usually means a type of chi deficiency.”
In Chinese medicine, health is about balancing yin and the yang.
“In normal conditions, the yin and yang are equal to each other,” Wang said.
Wang believes that the different world views account for the difference in medical techniques. Western societies value the individual, the visible and the brain. The Chinese culture values the relationships, the invisible and the heart.
“There’s no good or bad, no right or wrong,” said Wang. “What we have seen here is just a difference.”